By Areesha Nouman

With Thanksgiving break ending just over a week ago, and now students preparing for midterm exams, winter break feels closer than ever!! I know I am really looking forward to being free of midterm studying, homework, and classwork for those heavenly two and a half weeks, and most people probably share the same opinion too.  Of course, with holidays starting in just a couple of weeks, students like myself are already starting to plan all of the fun activities during our time off. I’ve heard chatter in the hallways about traveling, meeting up with family, and most importantly, preparing for the holidays, which is why I wanted to share some of my favorite recipes to make during the holiday season. I know that for me, baking is one of my favorite ways to unwind and get into the “time off” spirit, and these recipes never fail to bring some extra fun and of course yummy desserts for the holidays! 

1. Sugar Cookies

Every winter, I make lots of these sugar cookies for my family and neighbors to decorate and share. The recipe is super simple, with only a few common ingredients needed.  The dough can be chilled and stored to make extra cookies later! Since these are just a basic sugar cookie recipe, the dough can be flavored in so many different ways, shaped however you like, and decorated with frosting to customize them! 

Note: These cookies need to be chilled at least an hour or two before baking, so keep in mind that they need to be made in advance! 


  • 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour (spoon and leveled)
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup or 1.5 sticks unsalted butter (softened to room temperature)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ or ½ teaspoon almond extract (optional but enhances the flavor!)
  • Royal icing/cookie icing/any kind of icing or frosting you like


  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  1. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract (if using) and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine.
  1. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. Dough will be relatively soft. If the dough seems too soft and sticky for rolling, add 1 more Tablespoon of flour.
  1. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Place each portion onto a piece of lightly floured parchment paper or a lightly floured silicone baking mat. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness. Use more flour if the dough seems too sticky. The rolled-out dough can be any shape, as long as it is evenly 1/4-inch thick.
  1. Lightly dust one of the rolled-out doughs with flour. Place a piece of parchment on top. (This prevents sticking.) Place the 2nd rolled-out dough on top. Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, then refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours and up to 2 days.
  1. Once chilled, preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Carefully remove the top dough piece from the refrigerator. If it’s sticking to the bottom, run your hand under it to help remove it– see me do this in the video above. Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into shapes. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used. Repeat with the 2nd piece of dough. (Note: It doesn’t seem like a lot of dough, but you get a lot of cookies from the dough scraps you re-roll.)
  1. Arrange cookies on baking sheets 3 inches apart. Bake for 11-12 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. If your oven has hot spots, rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.
  1. Decorate the cooled cookies with royal icing or cookie icing. Feel free to tint either icing with gel food coloring. See post above for recommended decorating tools. No need to cover the decorated cookies as you wait for the icing to set. If it’s helpful, decorate the cookies directly on a baking sheet so you can stick the entire baking sheet in the refrigerator to help speed up the icing setting.
  1. Enjoy cookies right away or wait until the icing sets to serve them. Once the icing has set, these cookies are great for gifting or for sending. Plain or decorated cookies stay soft for about 5 days when covered tightly at room temperature. For longer storage, cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days.

2. Best Homemade Brownies

True to the name of the recipe, these are the best homemade brownies I have made or tried. I stumbled upon this website while looking for a good brownie recipe to make on one of our movie nights, and ever since, this has been my go-to. They also only need a few ingredients and are really quick to make, and 100 percent worth it – they’re really soft but not too soft, and have the perfect amount of chewiness. There are truly few things better than making a fresh, gooey batch of brownies on a cold day during winter break. 

Also, my obligatory opinion: the center pieces of the brownie tray are always the best ones. 


  • ⅔ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (I usually use Hershey’s semisweet chocolate chips)
  • ½ cup salted butter
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup of other mix-ins like nuts, more chocolate, candy bits (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, grease an 8×8” baking dish, set aside.
  1. Mix flour, cocoa powder and sea salt together in a small bowl; set aside.
  1. Melt chocolate and butter together in a microwave safe bowl, or on the stovetop over low heat. Stir until smooth and glossy. Set aside.
  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat eggs for 1 minute or until pale and thick.
  1. Add sugar and beat for an additional 30-60 seconds, until sugar is dissolved.
  1. Add melted chocolate/butter mixture and vanilla and stir on low speed until batter is smooth and homogenous (uniform throughout).
  1. Add dry ingredients, mix on low speed until just incorporated and there are no lumps.
  1. Stir in chocolate chips or other mix-ins by hand.
  1. Pour batter into the prepared pan; bake until the top is set and the brownies are only very slightly “jiggly”, 25-30 minutes.
  1. Place brownie pan on a wire cooling rack to cool completely. (Or literally just cool them on a plate or something, I don’t even have a wire rack)
  1. Cut into squares and serve.

3. Easy Cinnamon Rolls From Scratch

These soft, warm, sweet cinnamon rolls are yet another recipe from Sally’s Baking Recipes, one of my go-to websites for when I want to bake something new. While these cinnamon rolls are definitely not as simple to make as cookies or brownies, they are definitely worth it, and a good recipe for bread baking beginners who haven’t worked with yeast or bread rising that much. It’s super satisfying to knead the bread dough and watch it rise in the oven. And of course, the cream cheese frosting is obligatory and very, very addictive. 


  • Dough:
    • 2 and ¾ cups (344g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
    • ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ¾ cup (180ml) whole milk
    • 3 Tablespoons (45g) unsalted butter
    • 2 and ¼ teaspoons Platinum Yeast from Red Star or any instant yeast (1 standard packet)
    • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • Filling:
    • 3 Tablespoons (45g) unsalted butter, extra softened
    • ⅓ cup (67g) packed light or dark brown sugar
    • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • Cream Cheese Icing:
  • 4 ounces (113g) full-fat block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons (30g) butter, softened to room temperature
  • ⅔ cup (80g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Make the dough: Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  1. Combine the milk and butter together in a heatproof bowl. Microwave or use the stove and heat until the butter has melted and the mixture is warm to the touch (about 110°F/43°C, no higher). Whisk in the yeast until it has dissolved. Pour mixture into the dry ingredients, add the egg, and stir with a sturdy rubber spatula or wooden spoon OR use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on medium speed. Mix until a soft dough forms.
  1. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Using floured hands, knead the dough for 3 minutes. You should have a smooth ball of dough. If the dough is super soft or sticky, you can add a little more flour. Place in a lightly greased bowl (I use non-stick spray), cover loosely, and let the dough rest for about 10 minutes as you get the filling ingredients ready.
  1. Fill the rolls: After 10 minutes, roll the dough out in a 14×8-inch (36×20-cm) rectangle. Spread the softened butter on top. Mix together the cinnamon and brown sugar. Sprinkle it all over the dough. Roll up the dough to make a 14-inch log. Cut into 10–12 even rolls and arrange in a lightly greased 9- or 10-inch round cake pan, pie dish, or square baking pan.
  1. Rise: Cover the pan with aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Allow the rolls to rise in a relatively warm environment for 60–90 minutes or until doubled in size. 
  1. Bake the rolls: After the rolls have doubled in size, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Bake for 24–27 minutes, or until lightly browned. If you notice the tops are getting too brown too quickly, loosely tent the pan with aluminum foil and continue baking. If you want to be precise about their doneness, their internal temperature taken with an instant read thermometer should be around 195–200°F (91–93°C) when done. Remove the pan from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack as you make the icing. (You can also make the icing as the rolls bake.)
  1. Make the icing: In a medium bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese on high speed until smooth and creamy. Add the butter and beat until smooth and combined, then beat in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until combined. Using a knife or icing spatula, spread the icing over the warm rolls and serve immediately. 
  1. Cover leftover frosted or unfrosted rolls tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (if it’s even possible to have leftover frosting left, since I know every time I’ve made this…well, there’s never been any left to sum it up.)

4. “The WORST” Chocolate Chip Cookies

While I guess chocolate chip cookies aren’t, per se, a holiday treat, they are literally a baking staple for any time, any season, just whenever. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who doesn’t like chocolate chip cookies, and I strongly believe that they are a requirement to make a batch (or way more than a batch) at some point during one’s life. I’ve tried many different chocolate chip cookie recipes over time, and while I haven’t decided on a favorite one or the perfect recipe, this one is probably one of my favorite recipes I’ve made so far. The author calls it “The WORST” chocolate chip cookie recipe – not because they taste awful, but because it’s literally the opposite. These are the worst because they’re so simple, and so delicious, that it feels illegal. 

Note: Just totally ignore the amount of chocolate chips the ingredients state you should add. There is no limit, and there shouldn’t be, either. 


  • 1 cup unsalted butter melted and then cooled for at least 5 minutes¹ (226g)
  • 1 ½ cups light brown sugar packed (300g)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar (100g)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature preferred
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup maple syrup² (60ml)
  • 3 ¼ cups all purpose flour (415g)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I used all milk chocolate, but you can do any combination you like)


  1. In a large bowl, stir together melted butter and sugars.
  1. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring until combined.
  1. Stir in vanilla extract and maple syrup.
  1. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. Gradually add flour mixture to wet ingredients, stirring until completely combined.
  1. Stir in chocolate chips.
  1. Cover bowl with clear wrap and allow to chill for at least 30 minutes (chilling!? I told you, this recipe is the worst.)
  1. While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 F (175C) and prepare cookie sheets by lining with parchment paper (if you don’t have parchment paper, you can bake directly on an ungreased cookie sheet).
  1. Scoop about 2 Tablespoons of cookie dough and roll into balls, making them slightly taller than they are wide. Place them at least 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet.
  1. Bake for about 13 minutes (cookies will appear to be a bit underdone, but edges should be just beginning to turn golden brown).
  1. Allow cookies to cool completely on the cookie sheet. If desired, gently press a few chocolate chips on top of the warm cookies.
  1. Keep unbaked cookie dough in the fridge while waiting to put the next batch in the oven, and do not place cookie dough on a hot cookie sheet.

To wrap it up, these four recipes are some of my favorites to make during the holiday season, and hopefully you will find them not only easy, but delicious. Enjoy the upcoming break and happy baking!! 


Recipe 1: 

Recipe 2: 

Recipe 3: 

Recipe 4: